Late-night wheeling and dealing in halls, hotel rooms and secret venues around East London.
This is how hundreds of Eastern Cape ANC members spent last night as different groupings gathered to plot how to secure much-needed votes ahead of today’s defining provincial leadership election.
At least 1 700 delegates gathered at the city’s International Convention Centre will choose between Oscar Mabuyane and Phumulo Masualle today to lead the ANC in the province.
The outcome of the hotly contested race will not only shape the next four years of the party in the province, but will likely influence – to a point – its national election in December.
Several members were seen going in and out of secret meetings with those who share the same leadership preference yesterday, while others told how they feared that their rivals could use money to buy votes.
“We believe that we will win. But our fear is that they may pay delegates to change their votes,” a Mabuyane backer said. “They are loaded. Things are tense.” Asked about the perceived culture of money changing hands to buy votes, Mabuyane said he did not believe this was the case.
“I also don’t think it would work in this conference,” he said.
“People here are very true to their convictions. They are unlikely to be persuaded.”
Meanwhile, the outgoing provincial leadership was locked in a marathon meeting for much of yesterday to thrash out whether every member attending had been legitimately selected by branches.
This as allegations of bogus delegates made the rounds from disgruntled members, who say branch meetings were engineered by those campaigning for certain leaders to emerge victorious.
At a media conference yesterday, Mabuyane said: “We wanted to go into detail and clear out everything that might be out there such as unfounded allegations of [bogus delegates].
“The detail was quite elaborate to ensure that we get to the bottom of the disputes.”
Mabuyane said as far as he knew all disputes, including those from Nelson Mandela Bay, had been resolved.
However, Motherwell’s Ward 54 branch secretary, Siphiwe Dayimani, claimed some meetings in the region had been “stolen”.
He claimed their meeting had never sat – as per ANC requirements – and that signatures were forged, and people on the streets and taverns were made to sign the attendance register.
“We are being sabotaged and members have been lied to because our branch had declared support for Oscar Mabuyane and there were no numbers for Masualle in our ward.”
At least 21 complaints were lodged from the Bay, according to an appeals report seen by The Herald.
The report, compiled by national executive members Beauty Dlulane and Mcebisi Skhwatsha, details how some branches were ordered to reconvene their meetings while other appeals were dismissed.
Masualle, the outgoing provincial chairman, said preparations had been concluded and it was all systems go.
About 568 branches had been accredited to participate, he said.